5 eye diseases caused by smoking

5 eye diseases caused by smoking

It should come as no surprise by now: Smoking cigarettes can lead to a host of health problems. But did you know that smoking is a habit that can have a harmful impact on your eyes, too? Cigarettes, as we know them, contain approximately 4,000 chemicals. In fact, some of these poisonous chemicals can lead to long-term cellular damage in the eye, increasing the risk of corneal infections and delaying healing time, the Canadian Association of Optometrists warns.

Keep reading as we tackle five different diseases that have a higher chance of developing in smokers. Some of these diseases are so dangerous in fact that they can lead to blindness.


Did you know that smoking daily may put you at an increased risk for cataracts? Cataracts—the clouding of the eye’s natural lens—happens to just about everyone by the age of 80. When cataracts start to form, they can lead to blurry vision and—in worst case scenarios—total blindness. A study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science found there is a strong link between smoking and the increased risk of age-related cataracts. As such, those who smoke cigarettes regularly are more likely to develop cataracts at an earlier age than those who are non-smokers.

Graves’ Ophthalmopathy

In addition to having a negative impact on your lungs, tobacco also increases your risk for developing eye-related issues caused by thyroid disease. Graves’ opthalmopathy affects the immune system—more specifically, the thyroid. This condition damages the tissues and muscles surrounding your eyes. Complications that arise because of this disorder are double vision, eye bulging, eye inflammation, eye pain and vision loss.


Exposure to toxic chemicals, especially those found in cigarettes, can lead to uveitis, an inflammation of the eye. This can also affect the iris, the coloured part of the eye, according to Doctors of Optometry Canada. Smoking may put you at greater risk for developing this disorder, which can result in serious complications such as glaucoma and vision loss.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

If you’re a regular cigarette smoker, you’re three times more likely to develop the chronic disease known as age-related macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration (or AMD) causes the macula, the oval-shaped pigmented area near the centre of the retina, to deteriorate and can result in vision loss. The macula allows for acute vision. If you develop AMD, your central vision will be impaired. Because of this, you may not be able to participate in everyday tasks involving your eyesight like reading, writing or driving.

Diabetic retinopathy

You are more likely to contract diabetes if you are frequently exposed to tobacco smoke. Diabetes can lead an eye disorder known as diabetic retinopathy which is caused by the eye’s blood vessels becoming damaged. This can lead to many vision complications, including blindness.

With all of the existing information available, it’s important to be aware of the negative impact cigarettes can have on your health. Quitting smoking is just the first step toward decreasing your chance of developing harmful ocular diseases—and improving your overall health.